By Liam Mazeika, For The Miami Student
Since early September, first-year Sara Al-Zubi has been receiving hundreds of letters from all over the world. But as soon as she gets them, they’re off again — this time to the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan.
Al-Zubi forwards letters from well-wishers all across the globe — places like Singapore, India, Austria and even Ohio. The letters are sent to the refugees of the Syrian civil war as part of a humanitarian effort she started called “You’ve Got a Peace Of Mail.”
One such letter, starting with “Dear Friend,” is short and to the point.
Sent from Samantha Pomranky in Michigan, it provides emotional and mental support when material support may not be available.
“Please know you are in our hearts,” Pomranky wrote. “We are humbled by your strength and inspired by your grace and courage. Wishing you peace and comfort.”
Al-Zubi’s roommate, first-year Anne Lazarski, said the letters are brief and pretty standard, but they offer much-needed moral support to the refugees.
Al-Zubi, who was born in Amman, Jordan, has a personal connection to the crisis. Over the summer, when she visited her father’s family in Ramtha, less than three miles from the Syrian border, she could hear the bombs from the war, and even feel the house shake.
Being so close to the conflict enabled her to meet some of the people affected by it. When she was there just a few months ago, she talked to the child refugees who have known nothing but war all their lives.
“All they could think of was how to survive,” Al-Zubi said. “When I asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up, they said they had never thought about it.”
When she returned to her home in Cincinnati after her trip to Ramtha, she decided to do something about the situation she had encountered first-hand. Initially, she went to her high school, but eventually decided to expand online where she found a larger audience.
“A bunch of people are like ‘Oh my God, this is great,’” she said about the online reaction to her campaign. “That’s the power of the Internet.”
She’s already received around 350 letters, but she is hoping to receive more.
“Hopefully I’ll expand into something bigger,” Al-Zubi said.
Al-Zubi is currently paying out-of-pocket for her program, so expansion will be a challenge. She hopes either the program she’s working with, Syria Bright Future, or Miami will help her out.
At the moment, she’s still trying to reach Syria Bright Future, but Miami has helped her expand Peace of Mail. She’s working with her residence hall to organize a program to write letters, and the Honors Student Advisory Board has also been trying to help her project get traction with the student body.
Lazarski said they’ve been successful promoting the project and sharing information through word of mouth.
Despite being constrained to a dorm room in rural Ohio, Al-Zubi is still determined to do what she can to help the refugees suffering thousands of miles away.
“I need to do something,” she said.